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Losing Eden: An Environmental History of the American West

Losing Eden: An Environmental History of the American West

Sara Dant

ISBN: 978-1-118-93431-9

Aug 2016, Wiley-Blackwell

240 pages



Losing Eden traces the environmental history and development of the American West and explains how the land has shaped and been shaped by the people who live there.

  • Discusses key events and topics from the Beringia migration, Columbian Exchange, and federal territorial acquisition to post-war expansion, resource exploitation, and climate change
  • Structures the coverage around three important themes: balancing economic success and ecological protection; avoiding "the tragedy of the commons"; and achieving sustainability
  • Contains an accessible, up-to-date narrative written by an expert scholar and professor that supplements a variety of college-level survey or seminar courses on US, American West, or environmental history
  • Incorporates student-friendly features, including definitions of key terms, suggested reading sections, and over 30 illustrations

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List of Figures viii

Acknowledgments xii

Introduction – The Nature of the West 1

1 Losing "Eden" 7

2 The West Transformed 24

3 Claiming and Taming the Land 44

4 The Great Barbecue 65

5 The Pivotal Decade 82

6 Conservation and Preservation 102

7 Roll On 118

8 Booming the West 135

9 Building Consensus 153

10 Environmental Backlash and the New West 172

Epilogue – Sustainability and the "Triumph of the Commons" 192

Index 206

"Taking the long view, Dant illustrates how the West and its natural resources have always been central to national debates about the relationship between innovation, extraction, economics, politics, and the environment. Her lucid prose and evidentiary approach to these discussions make this book, if not a handbook for behavior, a treatise on how to better understand it. Filled with maps, graphs, and useful illustrations, this excellent book reveals much about our evolution over time and offers new perspectives on how we got to where we are today." Big Sky Journal

"The Western landscape is in flux. In her latest book, Sara Dant brings perspective to these changes by examining the factors that precipitated them. That her book should arrive now, at a 180-degree pivot in presidential administrations and political philosophy, in many ways raises the importance of the book. 

We are living, and creating, environmental history on a daily basis in the West. Can we maintain connectivity between various genetic pools of both fauna and flora to help them flourish, or will development further strangle them on shrinking biological islands?  Ms. Dant’s book provides context and perspective to this ongoing change. 

Though barely 200 pages, and so only a scraping of the surface of the West’s evolution, Ms. Dant does much justice...[and] ends each chapter with a robust list of suggested readings through which you can further bolster your understanding of the issues in play.  The author leaves us without an illuminating panacea for how we can sustainably consume the West. Rather, she urges us to talk and compromise for what’s best for this landscape we love." National Parks Traveler

"...for someone new to the area or unschooled in Western politics, [this book is] a good place to start." Pasateimpo, The New Mexican's Weekly Magazine of Arts, Entertainment, and Culture